Preview Review of Materia Prima

Recently I was given the opportunity to check out an upcoming new game that will be available on Kickstarter very soon. I received a prototype of the game with everything needed to play. These are my thoughts and opinions on the presented materials. Enjoy!

Materia Prima is a game by Florian Pfab, published by Peacock Tabletops. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, players take on the role of an Alchemist seeking to create the purest form of Alchemy, a Philosopher’s Stone. They will need to search through libraries and bookshops across the realm to find recipes for not only the Stone but also to create powerful Homunculi and handy equipment to aid them. They’ll have to be careful though, as their rival Alchemists are seeking to master the discipline as well and they may have to fight if they hope to complete their goal. Of course, each Alchemist will also have a secret quest that they must fulfill to prove their worth. In the end, the player that can earn the most wisdom from their journey will be declared the winner.

To begin, the 7 game tiles are laid out as players see fit to create the board. The Town cards are placed next to the board. The Tower extension markers are shuffled face down and a marker is placed face up on each Town card. Players choose a Alchemist and Tower and receive the corresponding standees and cards. Each player will place their Alchemist card in front of them, placing their Tower card beside it on the right. Players will also receive a Soul Stone token, which they will place on their Alchemist card. Quest cards that are suitable for the number of players, as noted at the top right of the card, are shuffled together and each player is dealt one each. The Recipe cards are separated by their backs into 3 separate stacks (Homunculi, Equipment and Philosopher’s Stone). Cards with a Wisdom Value of I are taken out of each stack, shuffled together and dealt 1 to each player, so that they have 1 random card from each of the 3 decks. The remaining Value I Wisdom cards are shuffled back into their corresponding decks and placed in stacks beside the board. The first player is chosen. Players will then place their Tower and Alchemist standees on one of the hexes of the board, starting with the first player and continuing in turn order. Players may not place these on an Element hex, Town or on a hex that with an opponent’s Tower on it. Once all players have done this, play now begins.

The game is played with player’s taking turns beginning with the first player. On a player’s turn, they may take 3 actions from a list of four basic actions. Those actions are move, mine, discard elements and fight. The first action is to move. To do this, the player simply moves their Alchemist or Homunculus to an adjacent hex. It should be noted however that a player may not move either their Alchemist or Homunculus onto a hex or across a hex that contains another Alchemist or Homunculus. They are also forbidden from moving onto another player’s Tower hex. An Alchemist is allowed to share a hex with their own Homunculus.

The next action is to mine. To do this, the player must first have either their Alchemist or Homuculus on a hex that shows an element icon on it. The player may then take this action to take a element marker that matches the element icon on the hex and place it on either their Alchemist card or on their Homunculus card, depending on which one was performing the mine action. Of course, there are some restrictions as both have a load capacity on their card that shows how many elements that they may carry. As long as the number of elements being carried at that time does not exceed this limit, they may add the new element marker.

The third action a player may take is to discard elements. With this action the player is able to discard as many elements as they are carrying onto the hex where their Alchemist or Homunculus is standing. These elements will remain where they are until a player performs a mine action to pick them up. If an Alchemist or Homunculus is at their tower, then they can discard or pick up as many elements as they’d like. Elements discarded at a tower are placed on the Tower card. A few quick notes about Towers while we’re on the subject. Towers can be improved with Tower extensions which are bought in towns. These can help during transmutation or can provide a free element per turn. Players are allowed to have more than one extension but may only have 1 active per turn. At an Alchemist’s Tower, they may convert a combination of elements into other elements by following the Element Conversion chart at the cost of an action for each conversion. They may also Transmute elements into equipment, a Homunculus or a Philosopher’s Stone at the cost of an action. The cost for the transmutation is listed on the specific card. Once an Alchemist performs either a conversion or transmutation, they can move as many elements as they’d like between their Alchemist card and their Tower card as a free action. It should be noted that an Alchemist may only have 3 Homunculi at a time. As for equipment, an Alchemist may only carry a maximum of 2 items. As for a Philosopher’s Stone, we’ll discuss this a little bit later.

The final action is to fight. With this action, the player is able to attack another Alchemist or their Homunculus in an adjacent hex. This may be done with a player’s Alchemist or their Homunculus. To perform the attack, the player follows 3 steps. First, the player determines their attack value by checking the number on the attacking character’s card and adding any pluses from equipment. The player then takes that many attack dice and rolls them. The number of fists shown on the dice is the strength of the attack. Next the defending player does the same thing except using the defense value from their character’s card instead of the attack value and rolls that many defense dice. The number of shields rolled is the strength of the defense. If the strength of the defense is higher or equal to the strength of the attack, the attack is blocked and nothing happens. If the strength of the defense is lower than the strength of the attack then the opponent’s figure is defeated. A defeated Homunculus is removed from the board and all it’s elements become the property of the attacker. A defeated Alchemist is placed back onto their Tower hex and one of their soul stones becomes the property of the attacker. Based on the attacker’s load capacity, the attacker can decide which elements he keeps and which ones are dropped onto the hex where the character was defeated. It should be noted that an Alchemist must always choose to pick up the soul stone, but a Homunculus will never choose it and must let it fall. Also of note, if an Alchemist loses his last soul stone, his status values change. They must now use the stats below the skull on the right side of their character card. This makes the Alchemist stronger but will not allow them to win the game without a soul stone. Once a player has taken all 3 of their actions, play passes to the next player in turn order.

There are a few other things that should be pointed out. In addition to normal hexes and element hexes on the board, there are also some tiles that have town hexes. In these towns, players may buy tower extensions as noted above. They may also research recipes. Both of these actions cost an action and are additional actions that a player may choose to do in addition to the 4 basic actions. Researching recipes may only be done by an Alchemist. To perform this action, the player draws a card from the corresponding deck. It should be noted that a player may only have 3 recipes in their hand at a time. This includes recipes for equipment, a Philosopher’s Stone or a Homunculus. Once a player gains a fourth card, they must discard a card of their choice. Earlier I mentioned Philosopher’s Stones and how that they must be transmuted at an Alchemist’s tower. To be able to do this, the Alchemist must find 3 partial recipes by researching recipes in a town. The recipes required must be from wisdom value 1 to wisdom value 3. Each Alchemist can only transmute one of the three partial recipes. As soon as a partial recipe has been transmuted, the card is placed in the corresponding area of the Tower card. Once an Alchemist has transmuted all 3 recipes, they will receive a Philosopher’s Stone marker to place on their Alchemist card. These can not be taken during a fight action.

The game continues until a player with a Soul Stone and a Philosopher’s Stone completes their secret quest. When this happens, the game ends immediately. Scoring then begins. Players gain points for having level 3 elements, as well as for each Homunculus, equipment and Philosopher’s Stone. They also gain bonus points for having a set of Philosopher’s Stones, a Soul Stone, Tower extension and for completing their secret quest. Each player adds up their points and the one with the most points is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This is a very artistic game. Each piece melds in seamlessly with the look and feel of the game. Included in this game are a lot of different pieces, from cards and tiles to standees, tokens and dice. Even though this is a prototype game, most of the components are pretty close to production quality. Probably the one thing that was off would be the dice. Instead of the colorful engraved or printed dice, my copy contains black dice with silver and black dots on them. That was a bit weird, as having 2 separate colors for attacking and defending would have been a little easier to keep track of. The game comes with some larger character cards for the different Alchemist that the players can choose from. There are also Tower cards that are also the same size. The artwork on these corresponds with the artwork on the standees for each. Of course there are some colored plastic stands for each of the different standees to be able to sit them on the board. There are also standees for the Homunculi that correspond with the smaller euro sized cards that represent them. The game also includes several different markers for the different element types, Philosopher’s Stones and Tower Extensions. Each token is thick and sturdy and can stand a good bit of wear. The white outlines I think help each from showing wear too quickly, unlike other games with black borders that quickly show wear. The element markers are brightly colored and have different symbols for each element. The Philosopher’s Stones are shaped just like the artwork on the euro sized cards that represent them. The Tower Extensions are a bit thinner and are rectangular to fit on the Town cards. The board tiles are really large and super thick. Each one has hexagonal spaces outlined on them to denote the separate spaces for players to move across. One thing I liked is that there was no hindering or obstructing terrain like you might find in some miniature games. There are also euro sized equipment cards that I didn’t mention earlier. These help players in many different ways, from providing stronger attacks or even better defenses. Finally there are the Town cards and Quest cards. These aren’t as large as the character cards but not as small as the euro cards. They’re somewhere in between, close to playing card size except wider. Honestly, I’m impressed with the level of artwork that each piece in this game has on it. It feels very light hearted and fantastical but never childish like you might expect to find in a kids game like some other publishers might make. The pieces are all very good quality even for a prototype. About the only thing that I could hope for would be a quality insert to keep everything organized. As for everything else, the game looks amazing. I really love the look and feel of the game. Thematically it works on every level for me.
8 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game is rather well written. Everything from setting up the game to playing the game is explained really well and in an easy to follow design. The book starts off with a interesting section detailing the back story of the game which sets the tone nicely. Every action and components is explained in detail so that you’ll easily be able to understand just exactly how to play the game. The book even explains the different secret quests in great detail. The back of the rulebook is full of useful information, including a list of actions and icons, as well as as detailed element conversion chart. This is very helpful to have on the table when playing the game. The book has some really great pictures and examples throughout. There were a few minor glitches with spelling or wording that I had to figure out, but overall it wasn’t anything that was too difficult. I’m sure once the game hits the market, everything will be fixed and be even better. Overall, I think the book does a good job of conveying the rules without too much flipping back and forth looking for answers. I think the designer has done a good job with it.
8 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
I quite enjoy watching anime. One particular show that stood out in my mind while playing the game was Full Metal Alchemist. The idea of being an alchemist in search of the materials and recipes for making a Philosopher’s Stone is a key element of the show, as well as being the main goal of this game. I’m sure you can see where I might get the correlations. In Full Metal Alchemist, the brothers are traveling across the country side getting into trouble and always searching for a way to create the Stone. The same is true of this game. Players are traveling across the country, going from town to town, collecting elements to take back to their personal towers to hopefully be able to craft their very own Philosopher’s Stone. Of course you have to be careful that you don’t lose your Soul Stone in a fight along the way, as you can’t win without one. You also have a secret quest that they have to fulfill to end the game. Such as discarding 3 level 3 Elements in front of the tower that’s farthest from your own, or transmuting 3 homunculi and placing them in 3 different towns. Of course doing these things will only give you big chunks of points, which can really help you out, but it doesn’t guarantee a win. So far, while playing the game I haven’t had anyone win that didn’t also end the game, but a couple of times, it’s been close. I could easily see how it could happen. Honestly, this is a game that I enjoyed even more than I thought that I would. It’s actually quite fun. Players can play aggressively and go around fighting other players at every opportunity, or they can have a live and let live mentality and just work on their own agendas. I don’t think either way is bad, it just depends on which playstyle you prefer. That’s another thing that I like about the game. You can have as much or as little player interaction as you’d like. It can be more of a Euro style game or a confrontation game. It’s really up to the players. As I mentioned earlier, this game makes me think of Full Metal Alchemist. I think fans of that show might really find something to like about this game as well. I can even see some more talented players than me modding the game with some cards and standees based on those characters. This game also has some pick up and deliver mechanics which remind me of games like Firefly and A Dog’s Life. Both of which I enjoy quite a lot. I think pick up and deliver fans would also enjoy this one. If I had one wish for this game, it would be to have a solo mode. I think a solo mode with an automa would kick it out of the park as far as gameplay goes. Needless to say, this is one that I would highly recommend checking out.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Materia Prima is a pick up and delivery game where alchemists try to create a Philosopher’s Stone and fulfill their secret quest. The game does take a good bit of time to play, unless you’re only playing with 2 players. For 3 or 4 players, the game usually takes about an hour and a half, give or take. The artwork for this game is truly amazing and feels very much like you’ve been dropped into some kind of fantasy world. The components are full of this amazing artwork that really caught my eye. The rulebook is rather good, although I did find the need to flip back and forth a bit while playing the game, just to make sure that we were playing the rules correctly. The game itself is very fun and makes me think of the anime, Full Metal Alchemist. It’s not overly difficult but has a lot of fun decisions to make. Fans of pickup and deliver games like Firefly or A Dog’s Life should really enjoy this one too. With the ability for players to play this one more like a euro game or to take it to their opponents making it more confrontational, this one should appeal to a wide variety of players. My only hope is for a solo mode to be created for the game. With that, everyone would win. Overall, I like this game a good bit and look forward to seeing the finalized game. My copy had a few extra bits and pieces that I’m told are to be included on Kickstarter as Stretch Goals. I’m positive that anyone interested in this game will love the additions to come. It’s going to be a lot of fun, like turning straw into gold. Oh wait, that’s a different type of alchemy. Game On!
8 out of 10

 

For more information about this great game, please check out Peacock Tabletops at their site.

http://www.materiaprimaboardgame.com/

Be sure and keep an eye out for the Kickstarter campaign link.  Coming Soon!

About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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